Mountain bikers pose safety threat

Mountain bikers pose safety threat

Jackson Dempsey being charged with reckless endangerment against a mountain biker may be justified, but it is also ironic.

I often hike the trails above Ashland and am always on high alert listening for mountain bikers coming down the trail. They come so fast that I often have to jump off the trail into the brush to avoid being hit.

My experience is that most mountain bikers try to slow down, we exchange greetings as they ride through, and they often let me know how many are in their party. However, recently I was hiking on the Catwalk trail and a mountain biker, racing very fast, seemed to come out of nowhere and crashed into me.

Although he was braking hard at the last second, as I tried to avoid the collision and jumped off the trail, he veered and hit me and pushed both of us into a tree alongside the trail. I was very shaken up and my arm was scraped up. The biker apologized, but he would only give me his first name before riding off.

I believe the mountain biker who hit me was going at a reckless speed because he could not stop within his sight distance. The biker's speed was no accident as he had the intention of going very fast (being a racer, maybe as fast as he could).

Driving a car at 100 miles per hour on the freeway is considered reckless even if the driver does not intend to hurt anyone. I believe the mountain biker's speed was intentional, he could not control a stop, and was therefore reckless. He caused the collision that injured me. I can only think what would have happened if a 10-year old child was hiking 15 feet in front of her parents.

I immediately called 911 and talked with a Jackson County sheriff's deputy, then subsequently talked with the Forest Service enforcement officer, as this happened on Forest Service property. With my description and the help of the Forest Service officer, we were able to identify a local racer. The officer contacted the racer, who admitted that he was the one who collided with me.

Here's the irony: the Forest Service enforcement officer told me there was nothing he could do because he does not have jurisdiction for a person-on-person crime on Forest Service property, and the Sheriff's Office has suggested it was just an accident and I wasn't hurt very badly. So I have no recourse for being hit and injured by a biker racing down a mixed-use trail on Forest Service land.

It seems bikers are protected if they are injured on a Forest Service trail, but my experience indicates hikers do not have the same right of equal protection under the law.

So hikers, beware if you are on trails shared with mountain bikers, because apparently it is open season on hikers. I hope someone does not get more seriously hurt before some mountain bikers realize they need to slow down.

Mark Amrhein